So you think you know your way around a sausage? Well, there’s a good chance you’ve probably been cooking them wrong. Or at least, not as delicious as they could be.
Grilling, frying, BBQing, boiling, sous-vide-ing, casseroleing… The list of cooking methods is fairly extensive. Each has it’s own merits, and often they fit a specific purpose so the method can’t be tinkered with an awful lot. But if you’re just smashing out some sausages for a sausage sandwich lunch, or as part of a belly busting full English breakfast, then using this simple, fool-proof method will give you the best results from your fingers of pork. And it really is simple:
Grab a frying pan.
Set the heat to low.
Add a knob of unsalted butter.
Fry for 30 minutes, turning occasionally.
That’s it. That’s my ‘secret’. Fried sausages. It all circulates around the low heat/long time methodology, which allows for a number of processes to really take hold and give the sausages extra flavour and texture.
So why are we cooking them long and low? A few things at play here. Firstly – rendering the fat in the sausages. This leaves the fat crisp and golden on the outsides, forming crusts along each edge with adds both flavour and texture. It looks fantastic as well. Secondly, the meat used in sausages won’t get tough beyond the usual texture of a sausage (unless you burn them). So cooking them for a long time at a low heat is going to cook them through sufficiently, allow for the fat to render and caramelise in the pan, and with no worry that they’re going to turn into boot leather.
Why the butter? Mainly as it adds to the flavour. You could use oil, but it doesn’t compliment the sausage fat. We need something to lubricate the pan and help the rendering process along. Salted butter adds salt crystals to the pan and sausage which isn’t really welcome, so do try and use unsalted.
So can we ramp the heat up and get this done fast? I am hungry, after all. Certainly not. This is the prime route to a bad sausage. The higher the heat, the less the fat renders, the faster the skins burn, and the less likely you are to have a cooked centre before the outer edges start to get tough. This is the main victim of the poor BBQ sausage – having the coals far far FAR too hot, so everything chars on the outside and is still going to make you ill on the inside. Save this high heat for food that can take it – prawns, bacon, steaks. Be patient, wait for the heat to subside, then cook your sausages at a temperature that is going to nurse them, not scorch them.
Isn’t this horrifically unhealthy? Barely any more so than the choice to eat sausages in the first place. Grilling is the healthiest option as it allows the fat to drip away from the sausage without adding any more fat to the process. But that’s a flavour sacrifice you need to be making if you’re looking to be healthy (easily substituted by picking a sausage high in spice or herbs – cumberland or lincolnshire for instance). If you’re looking for delicious, then this is a winner.
Things I haven’t considered? I could try things like lard, goose fat, and beef dripping to see if this adds an extra layer to the sausages. Some sausage fillings don’t work as well with this method – mainly those high in sugar as this sugar tends to burn (pork and apple sausages for instance), so looking more in depth and sausage varieties would be a bonus. I’ll also want to consider wider applications of this – for instance, can you cook the sausages like this then use them in a sausage casserole to good effect, or would all the effort be wasted once they hit the water? Let me know if I’ve forgotten anything!
And to finish, because I’m a savage, I annihilated mine in lashings of English mustard.